Study shows that paper-based single-use packaging has better environmental impact than reusable packaging

A new Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study, conducted by engineering consultancy Ramboll for the European Paper Packaging Alliance (EPPA) demonstrates the significant environmental benefits of single-use products compared to re-use systems particularly in saving carbon emission and freshwater consumption.

The LCA compares the environmental impact of paper-based single use packaging with the footprint of reusable tableware in Quick Service Restaurants across Europe. The study takes into account a comprehensive use of 24 different food and beverage containers in Quick Service Restaurants namely cold/hot cup, salad bowl with lid, wrap/plate/clamshell/cover, ice cream cup, cutlery set, fry bag/basket fry carton. According to the baseline scenario, the polypropylene-based multi-use system is responsible for generating over 2.5 times more CO2 emissions and using 3.6 times more freshwater than the paper-based single-use system. The reason for this is that multi-use tableware requires significant amounts of energy and water to be washed, sanitised and dried.

“When looking at different materials and value chains, sustainability requires a comprehensive and open-minded approach,” commented, Ignazio Capuano, Chairman of Cepi and CEO of Burgo group Spa. “Politicians and industry leaders need to take decisions based on scientific insights rather than beliefs and assumptions. It might seem counterintuitive at first, but the Ramboll study clearly shows that some sustainable single-use products made of paper are indeed better for the environment than reusable plastic ones. We hope that this study will help the European Commission to prepare fact-based policy measures in 2021, namely in the framework of the expected Sustainable Products Initiative.”

“We know that climate change is the greatest challenge of our times, and that we all have a responsibility to minimise our climate impact effectively, starting today,” added Jori Ringman, Director General, Cepi. “Water scarcity is an issue of growing global importance together with deep decarbonisation to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. The European paper industry has a special role to play in the fight against climate change by offering immediate and affordable solutions. Already today, there are 4.5m tons of single use plastics items that can be replaced by paper-based alternatives with an immediate positive impact for the climate.”

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